ROUND ONE VERSUS THE FLAMES
The Complacent Canuck Says:
“Listen man they’ve got the edge on us because our top 6 players are about equal, the goaltending is about equal, but their depth players are doing a better job. As well as their defensive core are out producing ours. If Calgary remains as disciplined as they have been and the Canucks continue to be undisciplined (league leader in bench minors) Then Calgary is gonna run over Vancouver in 6.”
So how exactly do you choose which line is superior, total points? Listen man, several Calgary players have over achieved this year, not to discredit their coach who got them to buy in. They just all played and an unexpected, elevated level throughout the season similarly to how the Canucks over achieved during the 2011 regular season. A year in which several players simultaneously had a breakout season. Sure they’ve beaten the odds all season and managed to scramble their way into a playoff spot, however their youthful enthusiasm will not trump hardened playoff experience from a core that knows what it takes. Sure they didn’t bring home the whole biscuit. However they played enough playoff games over seasons past- since Calgary’s last playoff experience, to total up to around an entire season worth of games. The Canuck’s veterans have more playoff games played than the junior players on the Flames have had regular season games played.
On to analyzing the team’s lines, the Canucks and Flames top lines tallied 201 and 202 points respectively, so the top lines are about equal. That’s a pretty fair assessment. Although the Canucks now have Vrbata on the second line, he’s a 1st line player, but still gets to rip it up on the PP1 unit. Since the Canucks have a better depth chart and can distribute the scoring throughout the lineup better than the Flames. The Flames have also lost quite a bit of scoring touch with Bouma getting injured. Sure the Flames edge the Nux in defenceman scoring totals however Giordano is no longer in the lineup, and Brodie (Who got 41 points) has only scored at a pace of 25pts per 82 games since Gio went down. His scoring touch is no longer what it was while riding shotgun to a potential Norris favourite. Wideman had a great season offensively too, his best totals since 2011-12 with the Caps. Here’s the thing though, why did the Caps let him walk? That was because he’s a liability in the playoffs and was exploited by other teams on a regular basis. He had a team worst -7 in 14 games with only 3 points to offer.
Here’s something nobody is talking about that I don’t get. Everyone is pointing at the numbers of points produced by Calgary’s back end, but they are awful at containing puck possession teams (Nux system) that fore-check well (Hansen, Horvat, Dorsett come in here) The Canucks may not do very good in terms of winning faceoffs to gain the aforementioned possession, but this is where Horvat comes in to take important draws. On top of that, this is also why he’s that -8 like everyone likes to throw around. He gets a lot of defensive zone deployment because he’s the most reliable in the dot. The Flames haven’t been the greatest faceoff team either (26th in the league to Van’s 29th) However to their credit they have pick it up in the latter half of the year and will get the edge in that department for this series.
Dorsett may have bad ‘Corsi’ numbers, but he has many intangibles that make up for it. For a grinder that can fight, he tallied a decent amount of points, all the while playing a shut down role. Bo Horvat had a mediocre start to the year but has been spectacular from the all star break and beyond. Jannik “Stone Hands” Hansen may not have the greatest underlying numbers but he’s a work horse that hounds the puck carrier and causes a lot of turn overs, even though he may create many him self. He also scored a fair amount of points this year. More than anyone expected anyway. He may not have the greatest finish, but he creates plenty of chances to at least get an attempt at finishing.
Now the Flames have some good scorers in their bottom 6, however the Canucks have had several different players come through the bottom 6 throughout the year and both teams bottom 6 units have perform admirably, more so close to equal to each other, with no clear steps on one another. The thing is the Canucks have more prospects on the verge of making a difference at the NHL level than Calgary does because most of their higher end talent has graduated and stuck at the next level. The Canucks have more bodies that they can put in to replace those who go down. They’re depth chart will be able to take more of a beating and still have players continue to step up. They will endure more than a Calgary depth chart which is already deteriorating as the playoffs approach. Meanwhile several Canucks that have been out for a bit, are 95% ready to go, and can almost be slotted back into the lineup (Richardson, Kassian, Matthias)
As for the goaltending situation, the Canucks clearly have the edge, some of which should not even be a question. Not only has Lack played spectacular down the stretch (.985 SV% in the final 2 games played), if he falters out of the gate, the Canucks still have a bona fide #1 starter to take his place. On top of that they also have better 3rd stringer and better 4th stringer options than Calgary has available at their disposal. Meanwhile Calgary has two goalies that are #1B tenders. Not to take away from their fine performances as a tandem this season. I’d just argue that Miller edges Hiller and Lack edges Ramo. Lack may have zero playoff experience going into game one, however Hiller was notoriously bad for his starts played in Anaheim during the playoffs, and this may be arguable but I see lack as slightly edges out Hiller’s performance from the games leading up to the post-season.
Calgary is the underdog in this series however you wouldn’t think it so with most analysts, and even EA sports simulation, choosing Calgary over the Canucks. However these are the same analysts who expected Calgary to be a contender for the McEichel sweepstakes before the season. Furthermore those guys at EA simulated a Bruins, Kings Stanley Cup Final. Neither even made the post-season. It’s odd that the media is in a way making out the Canucks to be the underdog by having more faith in Calgary. Hartley likes being the underdog team so that his guys will play loose without feeling as much of the pressure, so they can just go out and play. However the media won’t let him go into the post-season without the pressures of expectation. Maybe it’ll end up being counter-productive to take the pressure of the Canucks. I suppose it’s just more enjoyable to watch a Cinderella story come alive in front of you. Also, the Canucks let down the analysts who pick them in previous post-season campaigns. Perhaps doubting them is a form of revenge. However if you look really closely at this matchup and actually pay attention to the factors that will swing the series in a team’s favour, the Canucks are equal to or edge the flames in almost all of them. Lastly, just to throw this out there.. Bob Hartley hasn’t won 4 games against the Canucks in 3 seasons (14 games) since becoming the Flame’s head coach. Yet so many Flamers fan seems to think he’ll get 4 W’s in 5 or 6 games. That’s laughable. I’m going to enjoy browsing the Calgary Puck Forums after this series is heading to the Saddledome with the Nux holding a 2 game lead.
Here’s the thing about Calgary’s band-aids. They’ve done a good job of patching up a flat tire to help the team skid into the playoff picture. However your chemistry with your line mates begins to deteriorate when the lines are constantly shuffled. On top of that, the intensity ramps during playoff time. You have to do everything a little faster and play a little bit harder each shift by getting into the next gear, to retain the flow of your game. Something the Canucks will have less of a problem with because their roster is healthier, and vastly more experience under these conditions. Junior or College playoffs just don’t compare because the stakes just aren't nearly as high. Until you prove you can do damage in the National League Playoffs, there is no penciling someone in as a playoff performer.
Flamers Fans say:
“The Canucks have close to a hundred playoff games in recent years, but how many cups do they have in that time? Close to a hundred game for one finals appearance and no cups for the 2 girls? Experience is useless if it leads to failure.”
Spoken like someone who’s likely never experienced failure enough to understand the price that success comes at: Countless failures. You succeed because you failed and continue to try your best. Anyone skillful at anything would understand this process. So I suppose that excludes you.
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows
Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata
Shawn Matthias - Brad Richardson - Derek Dorsett
Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen
Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Kevin Bieksa - Luca Sbisa
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monohan - Jiri Hudler
Mason Raymond - Mikael Backlund - David Jones
Paul Byron - Joe Colborne - Markus Granlund
Michael Ferland - Matt Stajan - Josh Jooris
· Brandon Bollig
· Sam Bennett
· Drew Shore
· Emile Poirier
· Ken Agostino
TJ Brodie - Dennis Wideman
Kris Russell - Deryk Engelland
Corey Potter - David Shlemko
· Mark Cundari
· Tyler Wotherspoon
Kari Ramo (May miss 1st round)
· Joni Ortio
I laugh whenever a Flames fan uses Setoguchi as an example of depth. Hilarious.
Written by Brandon Webb